Is your brain playing tricks on itself?


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The mind is a powerful thing. It can often convince us of a truth that might only be imagined. Throughout this course, we have used a lot of "sciency" terms that continue to reappear as we evaluate new topics. Since the start of the this course, I have begun to notice how often those terms appear in newspaper articles, on television programs, and even during other courses. 

We all know from this course that a placebo is a harmless remedy, whether it be a pill or procedure that is intended only to affect the patient psychologically. It is only logical then that we also discussed placebos in Psych 100. During the course, we briefly touched upon what is known as the Placebo effect, which really got my attention.The Skeptic's Dictionary describes the effect as being "not mind over matter; not mind-body medicine" but instead, "a catchall term for a positive change in health not attributable to medication or treatment."

The power of the placebo effect is really stunning. This humorous video shows the way that these college students assumed that the alcohol (which was really a placebo) was affecting them. 

While this is a humorous video and is actually described as a "keg prank," it is a bit alarming if you really think about it. We are surrounded by placebos all the time. In fact, sometimes the "close door" button on elevators are placebos; we think that pressing that button makes the door close sooner, but in reality it actually is entirely ineffective. 

If individuals who were not consuming any alcohol had themselves convinced that they were beginning to feel its effects, is it possible that those consuming alcohol have themselves convinced that they are more drunk than they really are? Well, there are certainly those people that do act more drunk than they could possibly be with the amount of alcohol they consume compared to their body weight. Perhaps this is due to the group mentality of watching the effects on others, or maybe it is because of the expectations that people have of alcohol to make them act a certain way.

Well, what started out as an evaluation of the placebo effect has become my own theory that there might be a quasi-placebo effect when it comes to alcohol consumption in students. The idea that students are convincing themselves of the intensity of their drunkenness has the potential to be a very serious issue.All too often individuals often use alcohol as an excuse for unacceptable behavior that they would not have otherwise committed. Could sexual or other assaults have been triggered because someone thought they were more drunk than they actually were? How does this play into the punishment of those crimes? Should a person's blood alcohol level at the time of the crime play a role in how they are punished it? 

3 Comments

Last night I was briefly wondering why is that every placebo effect study I read about has medication involved. Fake alcohol is a great placebo. I can't believe I didn't think of it. I wonder if these fake drunkies went on to throw up and get a "hangover". As far, as your questions I don't think punishment for crimes like sexual assault need to be any less severe just because the individual is drunk.

i remember my freshmen year i had a Psych professor who loved to talk about sex, monkeys, and drugs, he was a character. he also mention in class something similar to what happened in this video. He told us that a study was done to kids about sugar making them hyperactive. Well the researchers decided to give the kids fake sugar, it didn't have any glucose i think. well kids reacted the same way as if it was real sugar they were very hyperactive. The mind is very powerful.

I think you're absolutely right on saying that people often use alcohol as a crutch and that the level of drunkenness that people display often doesn't actually have anything to do with how much they drink. As far as the level of intoxication affecting the punishment for crimes, I'm not sure I agree. I don't think an incredibly drunk person is any more likely to think about committing crimes, but as a result of the lowered inhibitions that come with consumption of alcohol makes them more likely to follow through with those thoughts.

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